“Skiddley biddley kiddley diddley booby tubey doowop bop badop. Scow!”
The Metahuman Policing Station was a mess: a hundred different metahumans and tons of police officers running around, living their lives as loudly as possible.
“Scooby dooby deepby peeby limey blimey bla bla bow!”
A Sphinx loped past me, led in chains by two heavily armed police officers.
“It wasn’t my fault, officers. It was an easy riddle! The answer was egg!”
The plastic chair was cold and uncomfortable. I tried to squirm around, but that just made things worse, made me more self-conscious. Hellfire, Blue, and Cathect had all been called to debrief for their missions, but I was still here.
“Manalipan Marzipan Mars Bars and Saddled Rams I’ve got to tell ya something that’s just what I’m gonna do…”
I screamed when something touched my ankle. Looking down, I saw that it was a head without a body, laughing.
“I’m so alone,” it said, laughing like that was the best joke he’d ever told.
A police officer walked up to me, bending over to pick up the head. A gaunt headless man stood behind him, wearing a suit.
“Sorry,” the officer said, grabbing it by the hair. “This guy’s a real creep.”
“Ahahaha guess I’ve lost my head!” the head shrieked, “Do you believe in God? Do you believe in a God that made me?”
The officer placed the head back on the body, twisting it around a couple times, trying to screw it on. The head just laughed. After what felt like forever, the two of them went away.
“Have you learned to sing the blues? Dance somewhere, you really ought to, you might even get in the news, cause that’s MUUUUUUUUUU-sic!”
I couldn’t tell who was singing like that. Whoever they were, they wouldn’t stop.
Finally, an officer called my name. I made my way to him, pushing past all sorts of people. A blind lady carrying a scale ran into me, but I kept my balance and made it to the officer. He had a big bushy moustache, looking exactly like what I’d expect a cop to look like. He wasn’t eating any doughnuts, though, so at least he was an out-of-the-box thinker.
“Detective Bochco,” he said, putting his hand out. I shook it. He gave the firm, aggressive sort of handshake that old men always give. He turned around and we walked through the grid of desks. “Pretty loud in here, eh?”
“WOOO WOOO WOOOO, BOOO BOOO BOOO, ‘cause that’s MUUUUUUUUUUUU-sic!”
“Yeah,” I said.
“‘Cause that’s MUUUUUUUUUUU-sic!”, the voice sang, getting louder.
“You’re going to have to speak up,” Bochco said.
“Yeah,” I said, a little louder.
“I love music, I love it a lot. I wanna make love to it, on a dirty lot.”
“Sit down,” he said, pointing at the plastic chair. His desk was lined with papers, many of them stained with coffee. I sat down. He didn’t.
“‘Cause that’s MUUUUUUU-sic!”
“You look nervous,” Bochco said.
“You want some water or something?” he asked.
“Water would be nice.”
Bochco got up and went to the water cooler. I turned around and saw the man who was singing.
“I danced with the devil, he gave me an anvil, I gave myself an Advil then my wife said I was evil. Evil. Kneevil. Revel in the me-vil. I’m gonna keel over and DIEEEEEEEEE!” he sang.
The officer dealing with him looked frazzled. She slammed her fist on her desk and yelled, “I arrested Satan once. Straight up handcuffed that motherfucker. You want to mess with me? Do you, punk? Well let me give you a warning: I will taze you. I will taze you in your stupid, ugly, scatting face, because I’m not afraid to whoop ass. My name is Detective ‘Motherfucker’ Kirby and I will fuck your mother if that’s what it takes to shut you up. Is that understood?”
The singing man leaned back in his chair, arms crossed. He smiled.
“Skiddley,” he whispered.
Detective Kirby rested her head on the desk, looking ready to give up on life.
Bochco brought back one of those little cone-shaped cups, and I figured he must be a pretty nice guy. I drank the water.
“Says here your name is Sarah Martin?” he asked, looking at one of the many papers on his desk.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Charles Martin’s your father?” he asked. The words hurt, but I knew he meant well.
“Mother,” I said. He looked confused, so I said, “She came out as a woman three years ago.”
“Oh,” he said, looking at the floor for a couple seconds, “Charlie always was into that weird sexual rebellion thing. You wouldn’t believe the stuff that guy has seen.”
“You knew her?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Bochco said, “Did a couple cases with him back in the day. Dude was involved with some weird stuff.”
“Yeah.” Trying to drive the point home, I said, “I love the stories she’d tell me.”
“Right. She. She ever tell you ‘bout the gay dragon?”
“Whew. That was a hoot and a half. You see, this dragon kept breaking out of the local zoo. Kidnapped the same kid over and over again. He would bring this kid back to his cage, and just fall asleep with him. We tried asking the kid what was going on, why the dragon was so interested in him. But the kid refused to cooperate. Didn’t tell us what his connection was to the dragon and refused to say how the dragon kept on getting into his house without breaking or burning anything. Finally, ol’ Charlie figured it out. The dragon and the boy were gay for each other!”
I couldn’t help but crack a smile at that.
“Anyway, I’ve got a lot on my plate, so we’d best talk business. It says here you threw a statue of a naked lady at the unregistered metahuman?”
“I have insurance,” I blurted.
— — —
The car ride back to HQ felt quiet, even though I knew it wasn’t. Cathect talked a lot, telling a story about how someone had cloned him. Apparently, the clone became a porn star and toured the circuit, so these days people always came up to Cathect thinking he was a porn star, not a superhero.
Of course, it’d been even worse for the clone, since sometimes demons would try and terrorize him. Once, they kidnapped him during a porn shoot.
Hellfire seemed to find the story kind of amusing, but Blue and I sat in the back, thinking. I guess I liked the ride. Cathect grew up here, and he’d wanted to be a superhero his whole life. So he and his friends had “patrolled” the city a lot.
He took us through a cool area of town on the way home.
“My mom lives around here,” I said.
“I thought Agent 09’s location was secret,” Blue said.
“Other mom. Charlie,” I said.
“Must be a cool lady,” Cathect said, “I love this place. Go to get my palm read sometimes.”
“Yeah, she is pretty cool,” I said. She always came home with the best stories. Of course, she’d wait until Agent 09 was away or asleep to tell them.
I really liked the story where Alexander the Great came back from the past, and ended up hitting on every guy he saw.
And I loved the story where her shape-shifting arch-nemesis Plastique hid in the house for a day, disguised as a toaster. But Charlie quickly figured out that she wasn’t a toaster because she moaned whenever mom tried putting bread in her.
Then there was the one where a gang of werewolves and vampires met on the street, and everyone was worried that they were going to get into a fight, but they just ended up having a dance party and making out with each other.
It’d been a couple months since I’d talked to Charlie. I guess I’d been so busy with all the crime-fighting, that I’d forgotten to call her. Or visit.
Cathect started talking about the lady who read his palms, but I didn’t pay him too much attention. I just looked out the window. This was a nice area of town. People painted their houses all sorts of crazy, neon colors. And there were a lot of trees and bushes and stuff.
“Nano,” Blue said. I looked at her.
“I know mind control is weird.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It is.”
“It’s not the first time it happened to me, and I just want to say I’m sorry for all that happened. It doesn’t feel good.”
I didn’t pay much attention to anything for the rest of the ride home. I felt trapped by my own thoughts.
— — —
The four of us sat on the couch. Blue, Hellfire, and Catalyst watched the TV, while I tried to do some research on the girl in the art gallery.
I’d gone on the Metahuman Database and looked up people with cloaks who control darkness. After forty-eight pages of results, I still hadn’t found anything.
Well, that’s not true. Actually I’d found out a lot. First of all, you don’t realize how far people will go to get a name that sounds like what they want. The good easy names were taken decades ago, but I wanted to be called Nano, so I just added my birth year and made myself Nano1993.
I guess not everyone wanted to add numbers to their name? This one girl took the name Darqclokexxx, I think because she wanted to be called Dark Cloak. That doesn’t seem very practical though. If you’re trying to join a superteam, you don’t want to have to explain why your official codename sounds like a Myspace account.
Also, I was surprised how many people even wore cloaks. They’re not as bad as capes or anything, but they’re still cumbersome. And hot. Unless it’s forty degrees outside, why bother?
“You find the mystery girl, yet?” Blue asked.
“No,” I said, “It might take a while. There’s a lot here to look through.”
“It’s a shame we couldn’t get her name. I’d like to thank her for helping us out back there.”
“Yeah,” I said.
I felt weird around Blue, after the kiss. It shouldn’t have been a big deal, or anything. It was like one of the wacky stories Charlie would tell me about. If she could deal with vampires and werewolves making out with each other, couldn’t I handle accidentally kissing Blue?
But I couldn’t just write it off as some weird story. It happened. It happened to me.
What did that mean? What did it mean to kiss someone you didn’t mean to kiss, who probably didn’t even want to kiss you?
“You come across any funny names in the Database?” Blue asked.
“Yeah,” I said, laughing. “A lot, actually.”
“I love the names people come up with for themselves. It’s like, what were they thinking?”
“Yeah,” I said. There were a few moments of silence, and I started feeling uncomfortable again, so I asked, “What’s your full name, anyway?”
“What made you choose it?”
“It was a water park back where I grew up.”
“Isn’t that kind of like naming yourself SeaWorld? Or even Disneyland?” Cathect asked.
“I guess,” Blue said, “But I always liked going there, you know? It always made me feel good.”
“Yeah,” I said.
“And I wanted to name myself after a color,” she said. “I knew people were going to judge me for the color of my skin. So I figured I might as well give them a different color to think about, a different color to judge me by.”
“I’m sorry people are awful,” I said. “But that’s cool. That’s a cool reason to pick a name.”
The show everyone was watching came back from commercial. I didn’t want to push Blue to talk about anything, so I decided to focus on the program.
It was a talk show with some old guy named Barry Ring, and I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to put him on television. Cathect apparently really liked watching this show because he thought it was funny, or something.
“You know, Andrea. This reminds me of one of my many adventures in Journalism School, when my buddy Joe Haskell and I would often go out to the lake to have a good time. One day me and Joey were out there, when we came across this salamander. Now, I can’t hear a word it’s saying because I’m too busy wrestling an alligator. This salamander starts talking to Joe, and tells him his whole life story. Joe ended up liking the salamander so much that he married it. And that’s how he found his first wife.”
Andrea looked uncomfortable, but not surprised. She asked, “Are you saying your buddy married a salamander?”
“Admittedly, the details of the incident are a little fuzzy. But I supported the marriage one hundred percent until the salamander cheated on him with his own toupée.”
After a few moments of silence, Andrea asked, “And how did this remind you of Gabriella Marquez’s takeover of Sum Industries?”
“Well you see, Andrea. One night after I’d hit the hooch pretty hard, that salamander and I–”
Hellfire changed the channel.
“I can’t do this,” he said.
I was about to go back to my search when Blue got up.
“Hey, Nano. I’m having trouble with my computer. Can you help me out?” she asked.
My heart started beating really fast. She turned around and I followed her to her room. Time seemed to move so slow. I liked the way her hair swirled on the back of her head. And I liked the way her feet moved so quickly across the cold tile floor. And I loved the way her hips swayed from side to side. I guess I was jealous of those hips. They looked so beautiful. I wanted to hold them.
We entered her room. I wasn’t even sure I had a heart anymore. You know how sometimes you feel something so much–it overpowers you so much–that you don’t even know if it’s real anymore? It was like saying the same word over and over again, until it lost its meaning: I’d felt so much so fast, and now suddenly couldn’t feel anything at all.
“What’s wrong with your computer?” I asked her.
“Nothing,” she said, “I just wanted to talk to you one-on-one real quick.”
“What for?” I asked.
“I wanted to know if you were okay.”
“With the telepathy,” she said, “I know it can feel weird to have someone invade your mind. It’s happened to me before, and it always feels bad. That one was particularly hard, with the kiss and all. It was gross that he’d do something like that. We’re teammates, so I wanted to make sure everything was okay.”
“Yeah,” I said, “That was weird, but I’m okay. I feel fine.”
Actually, I felt worse than ever. My whole body felt numb. It felt like all the blood was rushing to my brain. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. I felt like I’d never even been myself.
Because that kiss? Truth was, I liked it.
I liked the way her lips felt.